Dramatic purple lighting bathes the dining room at Cotillion Lounge, an Indian-Chinese-Thai restaurant tucked inside a catering hall. It's a Saturday night, and an animated crowd is eating and drinking, strains of Indian pop music drift in from a nearby affair.
I'm in the mood for something liquid and steaming, so I order chicken corn soup from the Chinese-Thai fusion section of the menu. What a bright and nuanced bowlful it turns out to be. Manchow soup is a thick, garlicky elixir from the nomadic Hakka Asian tribe, whose culinary traditions unite China and India.
Chicken lollipops -- sticky, garlicky, wok-fried wings -- have their own fiery appeal. So does salt 'n' pepper cauliflower, the pungent vegetable rendered sweet and piquant by a toss in the wok with chili and spice. A mellower alternative from the roster of Indian specialties: cashew nut rolls, nut-crusted fried spiced mashed potatoes.
It would be hard to find a version of tandoori chicken juicier or spicier than the one before me. So next time, on a quieter weeknight, I order a mixed tandoori grill. With mixed results. For one thing, the lamb pathar kebabs listed on the menu have been replaced with seekh kebabs -- very good grilled ground lamb sausages. Chicken tikka and malai kebab, two varieties of grilled, marinated boneless chicken, are moist and savory. But shrimp kebabs are burned and stuck to the bottom of the metal platter.
Chili garlic noodles ignite the palate in the best possible way; a deep, spicy gravy bathes the Hakka chili chicken. Chicken vindaloo, moderately hot, is very good. But Malabar fish curry, ordered medium, is way too mild. On the other hand, the spinach and cheese dish known as saag paneer, usually a palate-soother, is disconcertingly spicy.
Garlic naan and onion kulcha rule the bread category. Heavier eating: aloo paratha, whole- wheat bread stuffed with potatoes, and keema naan, stuffed with meat and onions.
The menu also offers a few Thai curries and noodle dishes.
To end on a refreshing note, try the milky Indian ice cream known as kulfi. Better yet, go for gulab jamun, the Indian equivalent of fried doughnuts in syrup -- worth every last calorie.